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With three games to go, here's what Connacht have to do to qualify for the Champions Cup

Pat Lam’s men have a tough fight for that all-important sixth position.

Matt Healy scores his side's first try Connacht need Matt Healy to continue his flying form if they want to finish in the Pro12 top six. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

IT HAS BEEN a real season of progress for Connacht but if they don’t close out their Pro12 campaign strongly it will all be for nothing.

The westerners currently occupy sixth place in the league, and as it stands they would be in the draw for next season’s lucrative Champions Cup. Seventh position would see them enter a playoff for Champions Cup qualification while an eighth place finish would put them in the second-tier Challenge Cup.

There are three teams competing for those two spots and it is extremely tight at the moment.

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Connacht picked up a losing bonus point at home to Ulster today while the Scarlets eked out a last minute win in Zebre. Edinburgh host Munster tonight and Pat Lam will be praying that the southern province can do his team a favour by winning.

Anthony Foley’s men will be favoured to win so if the Scottish side were to pick up a losing bonus point all three sixth-place contenders would be level on points with three games to go. The first tiebreak is wins and then points difference so Connacht would hold onto sixth in the event of three-way tie, as it stands.

Here is the fixture list for the contenders in the final three rounds.

Connacht:

(H) v Glasgow, 25 April at 13.05.

(A) v Zebre, 9 May at 18.30.

(H) v Ospreys, 16 May at 15.00.

Scarlets:

(A) v the Dragons, 25 April at 16.45.

(H) v Cardiff, 10 May at 16.00

(A) Treviso, 16 May at 16.00

Edinburgh:

(H) v Munster, 11 April at 19.30

(H) v Zebre, 24 April at 19.35

(A) v Dragons, 8 May at 19.35

(H) v Leinster, 16 May at 15.00

Looking at those fixtures it looks like Scarlets are the biggest threat to Connacht and there is a real possibility that the Welsh team will win their remaining three fixtures.

That would mean Connacht would have to beat two of the current top four in Glasgow and the Ospreys and likely win with a bonus point against Zebre.

Annoyingly for the men from the west, even that might not be enough if the Scarlets win their final three games and pick up two bonus points.

And worryingly for Connacht supporters, their form has dipped in the last month, with the team losing their last three games. But they know what is required and can’t afford another defeat unless they want to rely on other teams to do them a favour.

It is a tough finish to the season but if Connacht can deliver performances like the one that dispatched Munster on New Year’s Day, they should be dining at Europe’s top table next season.

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